Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

During March break, we were away on vacation… cruising via Norwegian Cruise Lines, on the Norwegian Sun to the “Western Caribbean” out of New Orleans.

On the whole, I’d say I probably won’t do a cruise again (at least, not to the Caribbean), although I can see how most people would really enjoy a cruise. We figured that on a cruise, it would be “all about the ship” and that we’d have to treat the ports as a side show. And that’s what happened. Even so, I did expect more beach time. And although the ship was great, most of the activities weren’t our kind of thing.

That said, if I had to cruise again, I think I’d stick with Norwegian. I liked the ship, the food was fine, staff was ultra-friendly (well, maybe not our cabin steward, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we pissed him off in some way).

Our last trip, to the Dominican Republic, didn’t go very smoothly. I’m starting to think we’re jinxed. This one started off horribly. But once we made it to the ship, all was fine (phew). I believe I’ll write a series of posts… which may mean readers are bored. Sorry. It’s mostly for myself – to remember the good (and bad) times. And perhaps for others out there hoping to find a review, like I was before our trip.

Friday Evening
I consider the trip actually staring Friday evening, when we headed off to Thorold soon after school/work. We decided to fly to New Orleans out of Buffalo instead of Toronto, saving ourselves a substantial amount of money. We stayed the night with my parents. The plan was to arrive in New Orleans on Saturday, with the cruise starting on Sunday. We were hoping to do a little exploring in New Orleans, and I was quite excited about it.

Arrived at the airport in record time, with absolutely no issues with the US border crossing. Sat in the airport for a few hours, paying absolutely no attention to the fog outdoors. A very short time before boarding, our US Air flight was cancelled. Along with almost all other US Air flights for the rest of the day. We only had an inkling that something was wrong a short time before, but thankfully, we were ready to make a dash to the ticket line when it was finally cancelled. We ran all out, and got close to the front of the line. (I hadn’t even realized it at the time. Michael had to point out how lucky we were after the hell that ensued.) It took hours to get rebooked. The entire time, we could hear folks saying they couldn’t get out the next day. Oh, oh… we might miss the cruise. Reid and I discussed trying to cancel the cruise, or maybe trying to drive back to Toronto to get on a flight, or maybe just driving all night and the next day to get to New Orleans. Poor Ronnie became extremely upset.

They had only a couple people working our ‘cancelled’ line. When we finally got to someone, I was happy to get to a man named Louis who seemed to be very knowledgeable. I had noticed he kept saying he couldn’t get people on flights the next day, but then he had winked and put his finger to his lips in a “shhh” sign while servicing the people ahead of us, so I figured he had some tricks up his sleeve. Not so for us, at least not at first. After we got to the counter, he walked walk off for 15-20 minutes into the airport yelling out announcements to folks (can’t they get someone else to do that??). He come back and asked about our details, shook his head, walked off again, to help some other US Air employees. Then came back (and when I looked at him incredulously) he said he had someone working on it. The he walked into the airport, yelling out announcements yet again for 15-20 minutes, waylaid by people with questions constantly. Finally, he came back, asked us for details yet again, and booked us on a flight the following day. I should mention that there were only he and one other person servicing our cancelled flights line. (The other person was upset, and kept telling Louis she couldn’t find flights… “just tell these people to go home”.) Good lord. I was in an incredibly horrid state by the time we were rebooked. Michael was beside himself. The only reason I didn’t kill Louis was because I was afraid of pissing him off and never getting on a flight.

Our flight left at 8:30am Sunday, and we didn’t want to take any chances with border crossings, so we spent the night in Buffalo rather than go back to Thorold. A far cry from spending the night in New Orleans. No complaining though, looked like we would make the cruise. The New Orleans hotel kindly didn’t charge us for the hotel room when they heard our flight was cancelled. The Buffalo hotel gave us a deal on the room when they heard about the cancelled flight. We went to the hotel restaurant and then went to a movie Reid and Michael were anxious to see: 300.

Ever see the movie The World According to Garp? I remember a scene when Robin Williams sees a plane flying into his house, and happily exclaims… “We’ve been pre-disastered!!” Nothing else could possible go wrong. I said the same thing. (Perhaps I should have touched wood.)

Sunday morning, no fog. No snow, sleet, thunderstorms, or hurricanes either. Whew. Got to the airport, and anxiously waited to see if the plane actually showed up. We started getting really worried when we could see that there was no plane by boarding time. Flight departure time arrived… still no plane. We only had an hour to make a connecting flight in Charlotte. The plane finally did arrive and they seated us quickly. They seemed to delay the flight to try to get every seat filled. Perhaps folks who had missed their flight the day before were trying to squeeze on. That must have been it, I saw Louis come onto the plane, and it was lucky for him I wasn’t on an aisle seat. The flight was delayed about 20 minutes, maybe half an hour.

There were plenty of people on the plane from Canada. It seems that taking a flight from Buffalo is very popular among Canadians – much cheaper. The folks next to us did it all the time and weren’t worried about making the connecting flight, so I calmed down.

Once we got to Charlotte, we realized we were very far away from the gate for our connecting flight, so we had to sprint. At the gate, they couldn’t seem to print up our boarding passes, and had to hold us to the very end saying they’d see if there was room. Again, we started to freak. We kept hearing about the US Air reservation system being really screwy. In the end, they found our seats had been reserved after all, just had lots of difficulty printing them. So we made it onto the plane. We should be in New Orleans by about noon. Half hour trip to the dock. Had to be on the ship by 4:30, sailing at 5:30. No problem.

At New Orleans, we headed to the basement to pick up our luggage. And guess what? No luggage. That’s when we met all the other folks from Canada on the same cruise who flew out of Buffalo that day. None of them had been on the cancelled Saturday flight, so I had no sympathy for them. We had already been through a disaster.

What the hell does one do without their luggage on a cruise? How many things can you buy on a ship? You look down at yourself, in your tired jeans and long sleeves heading for the Caribbean, and wonder if a pair of scissors might do the trick. The US Air baggage fellow was less thna helpful. “See the sign? Only one person in this room at once!! Don’t know when you can get your luggage. Fill out this form and we’ll get it to it. Going on a cruise? We’ll deliver it to the first port that has an airport. In your case, that’s Belize.” Oh nice. That’s Thursday. What will I do without luggage until Thursday. Lovely.

One of our fellow Canadians, a knowledgeable fellow it seems, figured our luggage might come in on the next flight from Charlotte. Next flight was scheduled to arrive around 2:30pm. It was delayed (of course!!). We would have to leave the airport by 4pm to make it to the ship in time. Norwegian Cruise Line staff were at the airport, picking up folks who booked flights through them. None of us Canadians had done so. They told us that if we purchased transportation to the ship through them, they’d wait for us. So we did. They also kept telling us to go on ahead, they’d pick up the luggage. The same knowledgeable fellow said there was no way he would trust them to pick up his luggage. He was waiting. We followed suit thank goodness. They only looked for baggage with Norwegian Cruise line tags, which none of us had on our bags.

Our luggage did indeed arrive on that flight. The Norwegian staff pressed us to start leaving (it was 4pm) while we were still waiting for the last couple of bags. So glad we didn’t let them try to find them. But all of us got our luggage. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

As for our visit to New Orleans, we saw it out the bus windows 🙁 But we were going to make our cruise. Yay!!!

I’ll write about the actual cruise in the next post. It may take a while… still waiting for Reid to put up pictures!!